BACK to the Main Index
BACK to Heaven and Earth
BACK to the Previous Chapter
Damien, my plate of cookies and I continue down the hall.
"Your things are in this room, here," says the valet, stopping outside yet another heavy oaken door and unlatching it.
This room has no special strong scent of its own, although I catch a slight whiff of my own property, the small amount of luggage I brought with me from Luna. I step inside, beginning to feel comfortable, when I am struck with the sight of bars on the window.
No way. No way am I staying in this room tonight. Absolutely not no way.
Damien stops my sudden, mad pacing with a grip to my arm that startles me with its strength. "Stop!" I say, turning on him. "That hurts! What are you doing?"
He lets go immediately and drops his hand. Something that flickers across his face quiets me as he says, "I'm sorry, Nathaniel. I forgot to be careful. But you need to calm down. What's wrong?"
"I'm not staying in this room tonight. No way."
"Okay..." Damien is going to give me my way, but I get the sudden feeling that he knows my every thought, that if he decided to exercise control over me he could. I don't know whether that is a comforting or disquieting idea. His eyes, unblinking now as he regards me, are as powerful as Oskar's. He continues. "What's wrong with it?"
"That mad father of mine can have his room with bars. I'm not staying in a cage. No way. If I have to stay in this room I'll tear-- tear through..." I begin to realize what I'm saying and stop, uncertain.
Damien keeps his steady, unnatural gaze on me for a moment more, then looks at his watch. He smiles slightly. "A little touchy, for full moon being next Thursday. A week away yet. Well, you're in a new place and you're overtired.
"Come on, Nathaniel. If it's the bars that bother you, we'll just set you up on Mrs. Hudson's floor. Plenty of extra rooms down there. Come on, let's go. Bring your stuff."
Silently, I comply.
I sit in my new, non-barred room with my
personal computer on my lap. I stare at the
screen in an exhausted stupor. Damien has left, I
have consumed the cookies, and I intend to write a
note to Mother.
I hesitate. My hands are ready, but I can't make myself tell the story of my meeting with my father. There seems to be very little in the way of idle chit-chat that I might be able to share, yet if I send a message to Luna, trivia is all that Mother will expect. I can't bring myself to mention things that she has obviously not forgotten and has never intended to share with me.
Well, if I can't talk to her, I can at least make some connection with home before I go utterly batty. I type the address for Luna University's Observatory computer.
Once the connection is made, I pause, trying to decide what to ask. Finally I type:
"Hello LUOComputer. This is N. D'Yangelo."
The computer responds: "Hello Nathaniel."
"How are ya?"
"I am fine Nathaniel thank you and how are you?"
"Not so hot. My father says I'm a werewolf."
"Interesting," replies the Observatory computer, which means of course that it doesn't have a clue what I just said.
"Isn't it though. Say, LUOC, that last time I was locked in there, last full planet, what did I do all night?"
My small computer screen is unaffected for a moment, as the LUOC thinks, then a reply comes through: "You Nathaniel D'Yangelo were not in the Observatory during the last full planet."
Great. Now the Luna University's computer system has gone bonkers, too. "Computer," I type, "That's impossible. Re-check clock."
Pause. "Done. Results unaltered."
Uh-huh. Wonderful. "I entered the Observatory, right?"
"So if I wasn't there that night, and I didn't leave until you unlocked the doors in the morning, when and where did I go?"
"LUOC, if I wasn't there, who was there?"
"But there was someone?"
Screwy machine. "Identity unknown?"
I can tell by the delay that the computer re-checks, then replies, "The sole occupant of the Observatory on the date in question was an unknown canid."
I shut off the computer. No other choice but to go to sleep now. I'm the only sane person, machines included, left in the world.
Friday. Pizza night.
The entire family, excluding Maury this time, takes one of the motor boats out to meet the weekly Ferry from Norway to Iceland. We're going to Reykjavik, the nearest large city, for a meal out and a little break for Mrs. Hudson.
The Ferry is a massive, white, dicky antique cruise ship owned and operated by a small company whose main reason for being is transporting customers from one northern continent to another. It would be easy enough to hire a private boat to make these trips, but besides being less expensive the Ferry is full of people and is therefore, in the opinion of Oskar, more fun.
The meal is all right, but I keep thinking about what Damien said when he looked at his watch last night-- that the full moon is now less than a week away. I just don't know whether I can trust Oskar under these circumstances. Will he force me to stay in one of the window-barred rooms? Why should I care if he does? How different is that from locking myself in the University Observatory every month? It's all so confusing and distracting that I eat barely half the amount of pizza my confident father does.
Laraine seems to enjoy herself, but then as far as I've seen she's always sweet-tempered and uncomplaining. She smiles at me often during the meal and I return the grins, although probably a bit goofily considering my weird state.
Damien, of course, shows very little concern at anything, although I'm certain he is aware that I'm not quite _handling_ this. He has no way of knowing about the LUOC screw-up, but after my little performance in the guest room last night he must think I'm as nuts as I know he is. Or something like that.
Damien doesn't touch his pizza until Oskar tries his own, then nods to Damien. It seems to be a ritual between them. I wonder idly why Oskar doesn't have everyone else wait until he has started. Makes about as much sense as everything else so far, I guess.
The Ferry departs at nine PM, and time goes surprisingly fast until then. We spend most of our time in the pizza parlor, chatting with each other and the friendly waitstaff. Remarkably, I remain _un_startled for almost the entire evening. Only one thing shakes me up a little, and that's the appearance of a customer with a distinctly feline head and long, furry tail. I glance quickly at Damien. If he pays no attention, I won't say a word...
Damien returns my look and smiles. Then he shrugs. Right. I get it. It's perfectly normal for cat-people to patronize the pizza parlors in Iceland. I take a deep breath and regain my composure. But, until that cat leaves, I have my eye on him, and, I notice, Damien has his eye on me.
I spend a lot of the next week avoiding my
father. I know it's upsetting him, but even
though I no longer feel the urgency I first had to
return to Luna, I find it hard to approach the
man. Those "Love, Dad"s on the end of his
computer messages may have gotten me here to
Earth, and if he were a normal man we might be
having the time of our lives right now. But how
can I allow someone who is obviously insane to be
a father figure to me, whether he is actually my
father or not?
Cassandra Clavius' portrait is still nagging at my mind. In my efforts to politely avoid Oskar, I decide to ask Damien for more information about the people who lived here. I tried asking Laraine, but she withdrew, smiling apologetically but still refusing to make eye contact with me for the rest of the day.
So I mostly follow Damien around the castle, asking questions.
"All I know is that Cassandra Morgan Clavius died about eight years ago," he tells me, "Because Manfred had been at the institution that long before he died. When your father got the legal information, where we used to live in America, the only detail given was the date of Manfred's death and where it occurred. Oskar contacted the institution, found out Laraine was there, and brought her home. Evidently Manfred had dismissed all the help when Cassandra died. At any rate, no one came forward with any claims or further information."
"What's the name of the institution?"
"Hmm... I forget. But it must be somewhere in your father's papers. I'm sure there's a phone number. Want me to ask Oskar later?"
"Say, Nathaniel... Why are you so interested in this?"
"I don't know. It's just some feeling I've got. Something about it bothers me."
Damien unwraps a stick of gum (I can tell by the scent that it's artificial strawberry), puts it in his mouth, and starts chewing (and blinking). "Cassandra's picture looks a lot like Laraine, doesn't it."
"Yes... Yes, it does. But it's hardly disturbing for a child to look like her mother."
"Oh, I don't know," Damien says. "I find such close resemblance to be a little spooky, myself. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that you can't go back. You know what I mean?"
"I think so."
"Anyway, I'll get that phone number for you if I can."
"No problem." He flashes me a grin. At least he makes no pretenses at being a wolf or a unicorn or any whatever-else-have-yous. I like him.
I get the phone number the next day, Wednesday, and use Oskar's hall phone. At least this piece of technology is on a par with Lunar equipment. I could call Mother from here, really talk to her via radio, but still I stop myself. Something about the memory of her wedding ring, and the one Dad always wears, keeps me from contacting her. I almost feel as though I don't want to intrude.
A receptionist with a Norwegian accent takes my call. Once we've been through the rigamarole of whose case I am inquiring into, and who I am, and the fact that Manfred Clavius is no longer living, she checks with a superior and gets back to me.
"In this case I have clearance to give you the patient's information," she tells me, "Since the man in question is dead and you are a relative. In just a moment I will have confirmed your location and identification, then we can try to answer any questions you may have."
I wait for the requisite moment. The tracer confirms my current residence at Uranenborg on Hven.
"Now, how may I help you?"
"Why was Manfred Clavius committed?"
Pause while records are checked. "Manfred Clavius committed himself, with the reason given that he could no longer care for himself and his fourteen-year-old daughter in a reliable fashion."
"And when did he commit himself, please? What date?"
"He entered the institution on... Let me see... November fifteenth, of the year 2363. He came with his daughter, who had her own mental stresses as well, due to the death of the wife and mother on the previous night. November fourteenth."
"I see. And it was eight years later that Manfred passed on."
"So what did he die of?"
There is a long pause, one that I recognize as thoughtful and pitying. Eventually the receptionist speaks again. "You are a relative... I don't want you to take this news too hard. Mr. Clavius had had a hard time. This information might upset you, however..."
"I'd rather know than not, please," I say, wondering what she could possibly know that would upset me all that much.
"Well, the records state that Manfred managed to acquire poisonous substances without the knowledge of our staff. He was found dead in his room after the... Deliberate ingestion of silver filings. I'm sorry."
Why am I standing, alone and disoriented, in
the middle of Reykjavik?
After that phone call, I still had enough presence of mind to ask my computer for a little information about the date of November fourteenth, 2363.
You guessed it-- full moon.
The very idea of spending _this_ month's night of the full moon at Uranenborg on Hven suddenly became a suffocating panic, and without even informing Damien I called Norway and hired a boat.
All I can think is that there must have been some _reason_ why Manfred killed himself-- although until yesterday I had no idea _silver_ was poisonous-- and the only one that seems to make sense by _this_ planet's standards is too harrowing to think about.
Isn't it possible that my father, a self-avowed werewolf, might engage in the same hideous actions as his ancestors?
I'm not going to be there to find out. I'll stay in Reykjavik until Friday, hop the Ferry back to Uranenborg on Hven _after_ the full moon, and book passage on a shuttle back to Luna. I'm a D'Yangelo. I shouldn't have any problem bypassing Lunar governmental difficulties.
But what do I do now?
I need a place to stay.
Only problem being, I had enough currency to pay the boat-pilot... and that's all.
I _admit_ that this is a stupid situation to have gotten myself into, especially considering I may be panicking over a family mental disorder that doesn't exist. But if it doesn't exist, then why are my dreams so different on those nights? Where have my memories gone? And how did my father know about my condition?
It occurs to me that, tomorrow night being the full moon, while I may be safer here than in that houseful of lunatics (pardoning myself for my own faux pas), I still don't know just how unpredictable _my_ actions are going to be.
I miss my home Observatory so much that I want to scream, but I (barely) keep calm. I won't go to the pizza parlor-- that's Dad's territory and he might come rout me out.
One cold night, one long day wandering in the streets or-- or within my own mind, it's hard to tell--
straying from vendor to vendor but never approaching, not trusting after that Snake man selling hot dogs by the Library...
No money, no one familiar, no computer,
sun falling Thursday night full moon
Mashed potatoes. Stinging smell-- _good_. Damien known. Mashed potatoes? Food...
"There y'are. That's fine. What the Hell did you think you were going to do in Reykjavik by yourself tonight anyway? Your Dad would never forgive me if you got lost when he was locked up...
"There you go. That was a stupid thing to do, Nathaniel. Remind me to watch you better next time."
Pressure around throat? Pressure... not too much. Food. _Warm_. Tug, tug-- follow Damien.
All right. Follow Damien.
Dark smell. Fabric smell. Taxi cab.